World Vegan Travel_TEXT_Diving Deep into Bali Vegan Experiences and Cultural Insights Brett Robertson Ep 129

Diving Deep into Bali: Vegan Experiences and Cultural Insights | Brett Robertson | Ep 129

Introducing Brett

Today, we have the incredible opportunity to introduce you to a true trailblazer in the world of scuba diving and sustainable travel. With over two decades of experience in the dive industry, Brett Robertson has not only explored the depths of the ocean but has also dedicated his journey to environmental conservation and promoting plant-based lifestyles. He’s the visionary behind Infinite Blue Dive Travel, a groundbreaking venture that marries his passion for diving with his commitment to veganism. As the founder of the world’s first vegan scuba travel agency, Brett is redefining sustainable travel in the diving world. He’s showing us that exploration and adventure can go hand in hand with conscious choices that support both the planet and our well-being.

Today, Brett takes us on a journey to Bali, Indonesia, discussing its popularity among tourists, the best places to visit, the allure of Ubud, and its fantastic scuba diving scene. He shares insights on top-notch vegan restaurants, and highlights Bali as a gateway to exploring the rest of Indonesia, including Amed, Tulamben, Raja Ampat, and Komodo National Park. Join us as we uncover Bali’s unique charm and its offerings for both relaxation and adventure.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Bali’s popularity among tourists and its appeal
  • Best places to visit, including the cultural hub of Ubud
  • Fantastic scuba diving opportunities around Bali
  • Top-notch vegan restaurants: Zest, Moksa, Seeds of Life, Bella By Sage
  • Bali as a gateway to exploring Indonesia: Amed, Tulamben, Raja Ampat, Komodo National Park
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Brighde Reed: Hello Brett and welcome to the World Vegan Travel podcast.

Brett Robertson: Good morning. How are you?

Brighde Reed: I’m very well, thank you. Thank you for joining me so early from Indonesia, somewhere very far away. I’m really excited to have you talk about and share your experiences about the incredible destination that is in Bali, Indonesia. So before we get started on that, would you mind telling us a little bit about what it is that you do in the vegan travel space?

Brett Robertson: I run a vegan scuba diving travel agency called Infinite Blue Diving, and I’ve been doing that for about four years now with my colleague Teagan, who has been on the podcast before, I think a few months back now.

Brighde Reed: Yes. It was so lovely to have Teagan on the podcast a few months ago, and he was talking about why vegans should consider diving as a thing to do when they travel, especially vegan travelers. Sorry, continue.

Brett Robertson: I worked in the diving industry for a long time and noticed that something was seriously lacking when it came to providing service for vegan divers. And so we set about trying to change that a little bit and also hoping to change the way that operators work within a sensitive environment as well, just by providing more for vegan people and then by proxy, being better for the environment in which they worked.

Brighde Reed: If you haven’t listened to Teagan’s episode of the podcast, I definitely recommend you check it out because it was really fun and informative. And tell us how is it going in Infinite Blue Dive travel. What are you working on right now?

Brett Robertson: It’s been really good. We’ve been liaisoning with a lot more operators, especially in Indonesia, which is why I’m in Indonesia at the moment, why I’m in Bali. The dive industry can be quite a staid sort of thing. And it’s very much a steak and potatoes deal, unfortunately. And we’re slowly starting to see some change, and a lot of operators here even sending their chefs to different areas especially to Singapore, over to Jakarta, they’re coming here to Bali to even learn how to create purely vegan menus for customers now. And we’ve also been helping them out with that, which has been a really good thing. So we’re starting to see some change, and it’s been great. What’s really cool is some of the guests have been going diving on a liveaboard for a week or 10 days, and other guests are seeing what they’re eating and basically taking all their food away.

So it’s been great. Yeah.

Brighde Reed: That is amazing. I’m so excited. I’m a certified diver and I love to dive I love the idea of being able to go on an exclusively dive vacation and actually have something to eat. That would be amazing. We’re here today to talk about Bali as a destination. I’m sure our listeners will know a little bit about Bali anyway. But why don’t you explain a little bit about where Bali is, and what it has to offer as a destination?

Brett Robertson: Bali is just above Australia and situated to the south of Indonesia. It’s an incredible little place and I think for me, it’s a very good hub or a very good entrance point into everything that Indonesia has to offer. So you have Jakarta over on the West and then further over towards the East, you have places like Komodo National Park. You’ve got Rajaji National Park. So it’s really located right in the middle of everything, and it’s just an incredible destination. So that’s why I’m based in Bali at the moment, anyway.

Brighde Reed: Okay, but I’ve heard that Bali is getting really busy now. What’s going on with that?

Brett Robertson: Everything opened up again after Covid. It’s seen an incredibly huge influx of tourists. Just because it’s so accessible, I think, which is what makes it really great. It has a good international airport. It has loads of flights coming in from all over the world, which means it’s really easy to get here. So I think in terms of a gateway, it makes Indonesia very accessible in comparison to some other countries in Southeast Asia, for sure. And so at the moment, there’s a huge number of tourists coming in, which is great for the economy here. It’s great for tourism. But it has been putting a little bit of stress on the infrastructure and stuff here, which I think has been hitting the news a little bit. There’s been some instances of some silly skullduggery going on, I think, which you may or may not have heard about. I’m not sure.

Brighde Reed: No, I haven’t heard about that. Are you able to elaborate?

Brett Robertson: Recently there have been tourists that have been soul searching, twenty-something-year-olds, that are looking for a bit of direction in their life, especially into a little place in Bali called Ubud, which is where I am at the moment, which is an absolutely amazing place. Which is one of the reasons why I recommend Bali. One of the reasons why I’m here. It has a very deep cultural sentiment and feeling about it. I think it’s different from all of the rest of Indonesia because of the Hindu population that’s here, and it has a very deep sort of ingrained spirituality and inclusivity, and so there’s been a sort of a certain demographic of tourists here coming to find themselves and they’ll be getting up to some pretty interesting stuff. I think a couple of months back there was this Canadian gentleman who turned up naked on the top of a sacred mountain here doing a New Zealand haka,


Brighde Reed: dear. Oh no.

Brett Robertson: which was just extremely odd. And he was deported. Fair enough, I think. And recently there was an instance of a temple ceremony happening, and a woman stripped naked and ran into the middle of the ceremony while it was happening, and I’m not sure what happened to her. But, yeah, it’s an interesting place.

Brighde Reed: Yeah. It’s very interesting, isn’t it? I think a lot of people confuse Bali’s friendliness and kindness and hospitality, and there’s also this sort of association of being authentic, getting raw, and discovering yourself. And people often don’t realize that Balinese culture is really quite conservative. Nudity is not something that Balinese people would indulge in at all. They’re really quite conservative in many areas, so I’m not surprised that this is happening, and travelers really need to do a better job of educating themselves as to what’s acceptable and not acceptable in destinations that they go to.

Brett Robertson: Yeah, for sure. It is actually very traditional and really rather conservative.

Brighde Reed: If travelers were gonna head to Bali, what would you say are the must-see destinations to go to from maybe a cultural perspective a landscape perspective, or a mixture of all of those?

Brett Robertson: My goodness me. There really is a lot to offer in Bali. I would definitely suggest coming to Ubud. It’s a very special place. There are lots of lush forests and lots of beautiful temples to see here. There’s a lot of fantastic and very inclusive eating to be done, which is absolutely incredible, and yoga, also, is amazing at Ubud, which is why I’m here as well. And it’s central to everything else. Outside Ubud, there are places like Amed, which I think Teagan mentioned last time; which is a beautiful beach location.

Brighde Reed: He did.

Brett Robertson: There’s Tulamben, which is another beautiful destination to go to. Over on the coast, there are places like Kuta which is very famous, but further north from there, it’s developing into more relaxed kind of areas. Tungu is very famous at the moment which is a lovely place to go and spend some time by the beach there. Tanah Lot is a beautiful temple. Seminyak for shopping and such things. Yeah, there are loads of different locations and experiences to be had here in Bali at the moment. There’s sort of something for everyone really. Whether you’re looking for the forest or the beach, scuba diving, or loads of different activities that you can do.

Brighde Reed: And what are the accommodation options like in Bali?

Brett Robertson: The accommodation is of another level. The creativity that’s shown when they built these beautiful villas and hotel rooms, and the way that they decorated it, and feeling is absolutely incredible compared to other countries. Perhaps the Philippines or Thailand is very nice, but not quite on the level of here. And the accommodation itself is very well priced, so it’s not expensive. It’s incredibly comfortable, very pleasant and very well-priced. So you have villas with lovely swimming pools and great restaurants and beautiful views, and who could ask for anything more really?

Brighde Reed: Yeah. It really is such a special place. I used to go there a lot for the weekend or if I had a short holiday when I was working in Jakarta in Indonesia which was very different to Bali. For sure. So tell us a little bit about the climate of Bali and what are the best times to go.

Brett Robertson: It’s stunning. That’s one of the amazing things. It’s great all year round. At the moment it’s considered winter, so it gets down to a bone-chilling, 29 degrees during the daytime. It might drop to 21 or 22, and then it starts to warm up from about now moving towards over Christmas time when it gets even hotter. It is comfortable all year round. It’s great. Where I am now, I am surrounded by rice paddies and tropical forests and things. A little bit of rain never hurts. It’s actually quite romantic.


Brighde Reed: Yeah, I think a lot of people think that they shouldn’t come in the rainy season. I say that in inverted commas because whenever it rains, it really doesn’t rain for very long. If memory serves and the rest of the time it’s just a little bit cloudy. I guess if you are a sun worshipper, that might be an issue. But really, I think Bali is such a fantastic place all year round.

Brett Robertson: It is amazing. Usually, if it does rain, it’s a little bit in the morning and then perhaps a little bit in the evening, but the rain is what brings up the lushness of things. The beauty of the forest and the rice paddies. Which reminds me of something. Take up motor scooter riding, then jump on a motor scooter and start heading around. Make sure you get your license because my mother came to visit me here a few years back and it was rainy season. The rice paddies were very full of water. She was on the back of my bike. I was riding along on a motor scooter, and someone who obviously didn’t know how to ride a bike came in the opposite direction, and on a very thin path. We started wobbling and I fell into a rice paddies with my mother, who was on the back of the motor scooter. If you are coming here, whether it’s rainy season or wet season, I think you, make sure you know how to ride a bike if you are going to do that. Just a little bit of advice.

Brighde Reed: Yeah, that’s sometimes a bit of an issue in Bali, isn’t it? Because transportation between places can be quite expensive, relatively speaking. So a lot of people will use motorbikes, and if they don’t know how to ride them, that could easily end in tears because the roads are really narrow and they’re quite bendy.

Brett Robertson: It is frightening. And, I think there have been quite a few tears of late, not just from the foreigners that are getting in trouble, but also the local people that are pulling their hair out wondering what on earth these people are doing.

Brighde Reed: So we’ve talked about all of the amazing things there are to do in Bali and the climate and why it’s such a great place to visit. What are your favorite restaurants in Bali that vegans should check out? Because there are literally so many. It really would be very hard to even visit them all, even if you were staying just in Ubud for a week, I think.

Brett Robertson: There are so many amazing restaurants to eat as a vegan in Bali, and Ubud is the centre of it all, really. It’s just incredibly inclusive. You can find something for everyone really. So whether you’re talking vegan Indonesian food or fusion or any kind of Western or international vegan food. Everything is here. It’s really incredible. I would say there’s a restaurant in Ubud called Moksa which is Indonesian and Western fusion foods, and the chef is absolutely incredible. They sit in a little permaculture garden, so they grow everything themselves, and nice little platforms to sit on and eat and look out over the permaculture garden. The food is incredible, and the desserts, oh my goodness. You probably all had those moments with cheesecake made from mushed-up cashew nuts that taste like mushed-up cashew nuts.

Another one of my favorites, which is called Zest, which is very well renowned. You have to book days in advance to even get in. Set up on a hilltop, and they make, yet again, incredible foods. An amazing setting. Things like vegan burgers, and amazing vegan cheese platters, things like that. Zest is definitely worth checking out. Restaurants are called Warungs, and there are some great vegan Warungs as well. There’s one called Sebogana, which is set inside a family compound. So you’re basically sitting amongst the family, and they make very clean Indonesian vegan foods, and it’s comparatively cheap. A selection of small dishes and rice, tempeh, tofu, and other things, you’d be looking at about two US dollars, which I think is not too bad. And another place is called Seeds of Life, which is a very special sort of place. They focus on raw vegan food. So they have raw moussaka lasagna, vegan burgers, which are super tasty, and also desserts. But they also have vegan tonic sections. So they make teas and tonics based on old Chinese herbal recipes and things, which is incredible.

If you are flying into Denpasar,

which is where the airport is, there are also loads of really good vegan places.

Brighde Reed: I’m sure when you are staying in Ubud for extended periods of time, you probably never cook. And from what I know, the delivery services are really excellent as well. And you can order anything you like.

Brett Robertson: You don’t even have to go out. It is so easy. Yeah. It’s all on an app on your phone and you load money onto your Gojek wallets from credit cards, and you can take a motor taxi, you can jump in a car or you can order incredible, delicious food from anywhere. It does wonders for the waistline. Believe me.

Brighde Reed: And the Gojeks. That’s interesting for me to know that you actually can order rides like an Uber, except, on a motorbike because when I last was in Bali, Uber was available, but it was a little bit under the radar. Uber drivers that would pick you up would be very reluctant to pick you up from certain places because they would be stepping on the toes of the much more expensive transportation options. So it sounds like times have changed and you can now order a motorbike taxi.

Brett Robertson: You’re quite right. I think pre-covid; they were really quite tough on any Uber drivers or Grab drivers or Gojek drivers. They were protecting the local industry and the taxi companies as well were making sure it didn’t happen. But now it’s very open. I think a lot of the people here make their living by driving for Gojek or Grab. It’s made it a lot cheaper and more accessible for tourists as well, for sure. You barely see a taxi here now at all. It’s been a bit of a democratizing thing for the travel industry and in general. I think in Bali they prefer the travelers to take a Gojek or a motorcycle rather than trying to drive themselves. So I think it’s appreciated by everyone really.

Brighde Reed: Yeah. I would definitely much rather get a Gojek driver than drive myself for sure. That would definitely end in tears.

Brett Robertson: You are obviously an expert in the scuba diving space Brett. Is Bali a good destination for

Brighde Reed: scuba diving?

Brett Robertson: Bali has some incredible scuba diving around in places like Amed and Tulamben. But it’s not just about diving in Bali, it also is a very convenient place to get to other areas which are also some of the best diving in the world. So from Bali, it’s very easy to get to places like Komodo Marine Park, where it’s ranked as one of the top five destinations in the world for diving.

So you can dive, you can see Komodo Dragons and things on the island. And it’s also a place to set off to Raja Ampat, which is, I would say, the most beautiful place on the planet when it comes to diving. Bali itself has amazing macro diving, so looking for little tiny things, little shrimps, little puss, and things like that. Very cute. Then over Nusa Penida, you can dive with Mola mola, which are these funny fish that look like a plate. You can dive with manta rays in Tulamben. You can participate in black water diving, which is an incredible experience where they take you out and they have very strong lights in the middle of the ocean. And you see all the little larval fish and things swimming around it. Yeah. Bali is amazing for diving.

Brighde Reed: So I’m sure anyone listening to this that were thinking about planning a scuba diving vacation somewhere in Indonesia, would love to connect with you. Possibly have you helped them make sure that they’re not just eating french fries? Can you explain to them how people can find you and what is the process like to make a booking with you?

Brett Robertson: You can get in touch with us through our website or any of our socials, which I think you’ll be able to see here. Generally, we offer a bit of a concierge type of service. We work with dive resorts here and liveaboard operators, and we create vegan menus with that. So what we try to do is avoid that sort of “Oh” scenario where you’re not arriving somewhere, and the chef is, ” Are you sure a little bit of shrimp won’t hurt,” or, “Can we please just remove the meat,” or something like that. So we do make sure that once you arrive here, we take care of you from the airport to the resort, to the eating and the whole dive experience. Yeah, you can get in touch with us through the website, through the socials below. We basically figure out what you are looking for, and what level of dive experience you have, and then we can make some suggestions and then take you through the process.

Brighde Reed: That’s interesting. So it’s not just the vegan food, it’s really customizing an experience for travelers that are vegan. So tell me, are you able to recommend or suggest places for people who have not yet dived before? Maybe where they can do their PADI open water or their first certification?

Brett Robertson: Definitely, one of the things I’m doing in Bali at the moment. Bali is a very good place to learn how to dive and has some great inclusive resorts to take care of you. So if you’re coming to Bali, places like Tulamben, and Amed, and Lembongan, are very good places to learn how to dive, or maybe upgrade your current scuba certification to an advanced level as well. So they’re very good dive instruction operations. So you can come here. You can live in a great hotel. You can eat fantastic food and you can learn to dive, and amongst some of the world’s best diving.

Brighde Reed: Incredible. So Brett, thank you so much for coming on the World Vegan Travel podcast and talking with our listeners about Bali as a destination. Listeners, if you are interested in learning to dive or maybe you would like to dive again after a hiatus, then you will definitely want to check out Blue Infinite Dive Travel and what they do to make sure that you have a really delicious dive experience as well.

Thank you, Brett. Thank you so much for talking with me today and getting up so early. I much appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Brett Robertson: Thank you very much for having me. 

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